How to Fulfill Your Purpose in Life: The 3 Transformative Steps

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Built Through Courage" by Dave Hollis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How can you fulfill your purpose in life? What’s the key to changing the current circumstances that are holding you back?

If you feel like you can do more in life, you need to take action. Doing so means examining your current life and making changes to it for the better.

Continue reading to see how to fulfill your purpose in life.

Step #1: Understand Your Current Circumstances

To fulfill your purpose in life, you must first understand your current circumstances, Built Through Courage by Dave Hollis says. Since your previous actions weren’t helping you achieve your purpose, you’ll have to change certain aspects of your life and behavior to better fit this goal. To make these changes, you must first understand what you’re changing, how you arrived at your current circumstances, and why you don’t want to remain in that state.

(Shortform note: When reflecting on how you arrived at your current circumstances, consider following Dale Carnegie’s advice in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living: Accept that you can’t change the past. Doing so will prevent you from ruminating on the past, thus allowing you to focus on your present (understanding what you want to change and why) and your future (planning how to achieve your purpose). To further prevent yourself from ruminating on the past, consider reframing your past mistakes as learning opportunities, as Robin Sharma advises in Who Will Cry When You Die? For example, reflecting on your past workaholism and how it harmed your health can serve as a strong reminder to prioritize work-life balance as you strive to achieve your purpose.)

To understand your current circumstances, determine whether your environment supports or harms your efforts to achieve your purpose. This includes aspects of life like the people you surround yourself with and the media you consume.

Step #2: Believe You Can Change Your Circumstances

As discussed, many people don’t fulfill their purpose because they don’t recognize their own potential for change. Thus, an important step to changing your life and fulfilling your purpose is believing you can do so.

Hollis offers a few tips for cultivating the belief that you can change your circumstances:

Tip #1: Use Imagination

Imagination is an important tool for believing change is possible. It lets you picture different opportunities and paths forward rather than simply accepting your current path. In turn, realizing you can make those potential lives a reality encourages you to change.

To start this process, imagine dying without any regrets, Hollis says. What would your life look like? What would you have done? Imagining the happiness and fulfillment of a life without regrets provides a big-picture idea of how you want to live and gives you the courage to make changes in the present so you can realize your imagined scenario.

Tip #2: Challenge Restrictive Beliefs

Challenging your restrictive beliefs is another important part of believing that change is possible. Restrictive beliefs are negative things you believe about yourself that stop you from changing or achieving your purpose. They usually stem from your upbringing, the roles that affect your sense of identity, and your past experiences. These are the main elements that influence your behavior and sense of self, Hollis says, which in turn affect your decisions.

For example, if you were frequently left in charge of your younger siblings growing up, you might develop the restrictive belief that you have to be responsible for other people and that your role is the “caretaker.” This belief stops you from pursuing your own interests and goals since you’re focused on looking after others. If you want to achieve your purpose and feel happy and fulfilled, you must challenge your restrictive belief and give yourself permission to focus on yourself instead of (or in addition to) focusing on other people. 

To overcome your restrictive beliefs, analyze where they came from, Hollis suggests. Often, these beliefs stem from untrustworthy sources—people who don’t understand or support your values and goals and instead try to impose their own values and goals on you. Recognizing that these sources are untrustworthy makes it easier to dismiss restrictive beliefs.

Tip #3: Change Your Perspective

Changing your perspective can also help you believe that you can change your life and achieve your purpose. Hollis says your experiences shape you: The type of significance you put on an experience affects your behavior and sense of self. If you put positive significance on experiences—viewing them as a source of strength or motivation, for instance—you’re more likely to grow as a person and achieve your purpose. This is in contrast to putting negative significance on experiences—for example, viewing them as a source of weakness or pain—which defines you by those events and makes it difficult to move past them.

To focus on the positives of past situations, consider how they helped you grow, rather than focusing on how they hurt you, Hollis says. This shift in focus can help you feel empowered to grow and change, instead of trapped by your experiences.

Step #3: Change Your Circumstances

Once you understand your current circumstances and believe that change is possible, the next step is to actually change—to take actions that help you achieve your purpose. Hollis points out, however, that you can only have one priority at a time. If you focus on one specific goal, you’re more likely to achieve that goal than if you split your attention among several. This will help ensure that all your actions are focused solely on achieving your purpose.

There are two main barriers to focusing on your purpose and changing your circumstances to achieve it: fear and expectations.

How to Fulfill Your Purpose in Life: The 3 Transformative Steps

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Here's what you'll find in our full Built Through Courage summary:

  • Why the key to a fulfilled life is achieving your unique purpose
  • How to identify and achieve the role you're meant to fill
  • How to overcome the two barriers to reaching your potential

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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